‘Don’t pity us or hate us — just HELP us!’ says unemployed graduate

The media, politicians and universities can’t decide — are unemployed graduates scroungers, princesses or victims?

None of the above, insists ‘Caroline’, 23, who graduated from the University of Nottingham in July 2008 with a 2:1 in Sociology, before going travelling for a year. Now doing a three-month PR internship (unpaid, with £100 a month for travel), Caroline lives at home with her parents, in London. Here, she tells Graduate Fog why she’s sick of being labelled – and why she just wants what’s fair…

How annoyed are you about the way job-seeking graduates are portrayed in the press?
“Hugely.  Either they say we’re not trying hard enough to find work and are lazy — or it’s a sympathetic piece talking about the ‘lost generation’ — which doesn’t exactly fill me with hope. There seems to be a general awareness about the number of good graduates who can’t get decent jobs or are forced to do long-term unpaid work but beyond everyone saying ‘Oh dear’, I can’t see much going on to improve our situation. What riles me the most is politicians saying out-of-work under 25s should get work experience. Yes, we know this – but does it have to be endless and unpaid?”

How do you feel when graduates are accused of being arrogant?
“It’s really unfair. I went to uni thinking I’d have a great time but also that when I came out I’d have a reasonable shot of getting a decent job. Now I have a good degree, a good CV and a strong work ethic — but apparently expecting I could get a job with those things makes me ‘entitled’. I don’t get it — isn’t it reasonable to expect a job with these things? All through our education, my generation has been told ‘Work hard, get a good degree, have outside hobbies, do extra work experience and you’ll get a good job.’ Well, we did — and now we can’t find work. So yes, I probably do feel entitled in this sense but I’m not sure that’s arrogant. I think it’s reasonable.”

What are the main problems today’s graduates face?
“Realistically, there are just not enough junior jobs available for the huge number of us coming out of university. The numbers just don’t match — and this is made even worse in a downturn, when companies stop recruiting. Only a very few people I know got onto graduate schemes and most who did secured the jobs over  years ago. Also, there seems to have been a shift in employers’ ideas of what a ‘graduate job’ involves. Now, rather than meaning ‘straight from uni’ it means ‘with a degree and a year’s experience’. Employers are reluctant to train us up on the job and now expect us to know exactly how to do it already, before we even apply. Then there’s the rise of unpaid internships– which is just plain wrong and means anybody who can’t afford to work unpaid or lives outside London simply can’t get into certain industries.”

NEXT: “Why teachers are guilty too”